Flypaper

Whenever I review compelling research, I end up mentally pairing it with a corresponding work of literature. Maybe it’s the liberal arts student in me (or maybe it’s because I flunked stats and require an alternative frame of reference). Take for example this study of comparative school funding and performance in Nashville, which brought Dickens to mind almost immediately. Compiled by the education advisory firm Afton Partners on behalf of the Tennessee Charter School Center, it makes perfectly clear that for this city’s charters, it’s both the best of times and the worst of times. “Mean academic performance for all grades is significantly higher for charter-managed schools,” it reads, “though MNPS [Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools] spent approximately $100 more per pupil on district-managed schools.”

A measly c-note may not sound like much—in this instance, it’s the difference between roughly $9,800 and $9,700 annually—but that discrepancy only represents one chapter of this twisted tale of two funding standards. The per-pupil analysis doesn’t include a $73 million gap in capital support between district schools and charters. Meanwhile, those same neglected charters are reporting mean scores on the APF (Academic Performance Framework, a statewide metric that includes test scores, graduation rates, college readiness,...

On May 13, Fordham President Michael J. Petrilli delivered testimony before a Pennsylvania State Senate committee. These were his remarks.

Chairman Smucker, Minority Chairman Dinniman, members of the committee: It’s an honor to be with you. My name is Mike Petrilli. I’m the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education policy think tank based in Washington that also does on-the-ground school reform work in the great state of Ohio. I was honored to serve in the George W. Bush administration; our founder and president emeritus, Chester Finn, served in the Reagan administration.

As a strong conservative and a strong supporter of education reform, I am pleased to speak in favor of Senate Bill 6 and its intent to create an Achievement School District for Pennsylvania. Turnaround school districts are among the most promising reforms in American education today.

Over four years ago, we at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, along with our friends at the Center for American Progress, began a multi-year initiative designed to draw attention to the elephant in the ed-reform living room: governance. Given its ability to trample any promising education improvement—or clear the way for its implementation—it was high time to put governance...

Cohabitation continues between the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). And they don't appear to be practicing birth control, because every year brings one or two new joint products. NIEER's hot-off-the-presses report—the tenth in its series of annual "state of preschool" data-and-advocacy scorecards—was again paid for via a multi-year sole-source contract from the National Center for Education Statistics, and was released at an event featuring none other than Arne Duncan.

Nobody is making any effort to conceal this romance (which is just as well if you believe in governmental transparency).

Its progeny, however, all seem to look alike. This report is more of the same: a celebration of various increases in state-funded early childhood programs, strong recommendations for yet more increases, sundry state-by-state comparisons, and individual state profiles. The only difference between it and the most recent one published by the Education Department itself is that NIEER's policy advocacy is naked while the federal versions at least wear diapers.

Aside from the question of whether Uncle Sam should be paying for this, my biggest issue continues to be NIEER's woeful definition of preschool "quality." At least eight of their ten "national...

Greg Richmond

When bad schools close, families usually get something better.

That’s what the Thomas B. Fordham Institute asserts in its April 2015 study School Closures and Student Achievement, using new research conducted in both traditional and charter public schools located in Ohio’s large urban school districts.

For more than fifty years, passionate educators, scholars, and community leaders who rue school failure have agreed on very little when it comes to the best way to reform our education system. But most could agree on this: Kids shouldn’t have to go to schools that consistently fail them year after year.

 So why is closing schools the last thing anyone wants to consider? If we don’t want kids in consistently failing schools, and we know they can go somewhere better, what’s the hold-up?

Recent polling suggests most people have a “fix the school we have” mentality, supporting retooling schools over closure or complete overhaul. They see closure as extreme and counterproductive, a sign of giving up on community-based public schools.

While I sympathize with the desire to fix what we have rather than start over, I always get stuck on one simple problem: time.

In “fix the school we have” scenarios, we...

Rand Paul, the junior U.S. senator from Kentucky, is one of at least six Republicans hoping to be president. He’s officially up against Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina—and more likely candidates, like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, are waiting in the wings. He’s also the subject of the eighth installment of the Eduwatch 2016 series chronicling candidates’ stances on education issues.

Paul, who is both a standing U.S. senator and a practicing ophthalmologist, has been around national politics most of his life. His father Ron was an on-again, off-again congressman between 1976 and 2013, ran for president twice, and first held office when Rand was thirteen years old. So although Rand has only been in office for four years, he isn’t exactly a novice—nor is he treated like one. Here are his views on education:

1. Common...

There’s been a lot of pontificating lately about how to interpret the opt-out movement and the message parents are trying to deliver. The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Riley believes that “soccer moms” are mad at Common Core. Jay Greene, channeled by Riley, blames the diminishment of parental control. Rick Hess fingers the reformers’ social justice agenda, which is at odds with the interests of middle class suburban parents.

These guesses are as good as anyone’s because the truth is: We don’t know. To my knowledge, nobody has surveyed a representative sample of the opt-outers; nobody knows for sure what’s motivating them. So let’s pause for a moment and examine what we do know. In other words, let’s establish the fact base.

  1. A whole lot of parents in New York State opted out their kids of state exams this spring. According to New York State Allies for Public Education, almost 200,000 students did not take the tests; in several districts, that number was as high as 70 percent.
  2. A handful of New Jersey districts also saw sky-high opt-out numbers,
  3. ...

Editor's note: On May 6, Fordham contributor Andy Smarick delivered testimony before an Ohio education subcommittee on Senate Bill 148, a critical piece of legislation that would help clean up the state's troubled charter sector. With his permission, we're reproducing his remarks.

Thank you Chair Hite, Vice Chair Sawyer, and subcommittee members for allowing me to offer some thoughts on your ongoing efforts to improve charter schooling in Ohio. Congratulations and thank you for the important progress that’s reflected in the legislation being considered here today.

My name is Andy Smarick, and I’m a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization committed to improving K–12 schooling, especially for high-need students. I’ve worked on education policy for most of my career—at the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. House of Representatives, a state department of education, and a state legislature.

I’m also a strong advocate for high-quality charter schooling. I helped start a charter school for low-income students, I helped found the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, and I’ve written extensively about charter schooling, including a book on how—when done right—it can dramatically improve student results in cities.

I was a coauthor of the...

A new report from the Institute of Education Sciences presents new data from a national survey of teachers, which is part of a longitudinal study of public school teachers who began teaching sometime between the school years 2007–2008 and 2011–2012. Of the many findings, six stand out.

  1. During their second year, 74 percent of beginning teachers taught in the same school as the previous year, 16 percent taught in a different school, and 10 percent were not teaching. By year five, 17 percent of teachers had left teaching.
  2. The percentage of beginning teachers who continued to teach after the first year varied by first year salary level. For example, 97 percent of beginning teachers whose first year base salaries were $40,000 or more were still teaching in year two of the study, whereas only 87 percent of those with a first year salary less than $40,000 taught for a second year.
  3. No differences were detected between the percentages of current teachers who started teaching with a bachelor’s degree and those who started teaching with a master’s degree.
  4. The percentage of beginning teachers who continued to teach was larger among those who were assigned a first year mentor than among
  5. ...

ACT’s new report is based on a survey it administered to graduating high school seniors who took its college entrance exam, a cohort that now comprises 57 percent of the nation’s graduates. The report analyzes data on the self-reported career interests of nearly 1.85 million students, compared to those who took the ACT in the previous four years; it focuses particularly on those who expressed an interest in education as a profession. This includes survey respondents who planned to major in administration/student services, general teacher education, the teaching of special populations (e.g., early childhood, special education), and the teaching of specific subject areas like math or a foreign language.

The researchers found that between 2010 and 2015, the total number of graduates who planned to work in education decreased more than 16 percent—even though the number of ACT test takers rose 18 percent. Similarly, the percentage of all test takers planning to walk that career path decreased from 7 percent in 2010 to 5 percent in 2016. These students also achieve lower ACT scores than the national average in math, science, and reading—something that was also true in 2010. And the cohort is less diverse than some might prefer: 72...

Jack Jennings was the most influential education policy staffer on the Democratic side of Congress—probably on both sides—for the past half century. He served on the House Education Committee team for some twenty-seven years, then founded and led a well-regarded quasi-think tank called the Center on Education Policy, which continues to issue useful studies.

His new book, timed to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, is forceful, opinionated, informative, and sometimes quite wrong. (A simple example: He several times attaches my own stint in the Education Department to the wrong president. More importantly, he misstates Richard Nixon’s K–12 proposals and incorrectly describes their handling by Congress.) As Andy Rotherham says on the back cover, “If you agree with everything in this book, you probably didn’t read it closely.”

But there’s much useful history and perceptive analysis here, as well as some pie-in-the-sky recommendations for the future. Particularly interesting to me was how Jennings traced the onset of federal involvement with results-based accountability to the 1988 Title I amendments shaped by Committee Chairman Augustus Hawkins. Those revisions, he writes, “marked a change in attitude among congressional leaders, characterized by increased demands on educators to...

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